NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa.–Youth is typically served at the Amateur Championship with its endless rounds and long hours. At the revered Aronimink Golf Club this year, however, experience continues to carry the day. Three of four Amateur semifinalists have competed in a title match, all within the last six years. Michael McDermott of Merion Golf Club and Conrad Von Borsig of White Manor Country Club won the Amateur in 2008 and 2009, respectively, and will face each other. Michael Kania of Overbrook Golf Club was Amateur runner-up in 2010. He faces Alexander Hicks of Wildwood G&CC at 8 a.m. McDermott and Von Borsig start at 8:07 a.m.
The 36-hole final begins at 8 a.m. on Saturday.
The McDermott-Von Borsig contest is a 2009 semifinal rematch. Von Borsig defeated McDermott on the 18th green that year with a round full of dazzling chips and putts. Von Borsig went on to defeat Kania’s brother James, Jr. in the final.
“To be honest, going into that match I had nothing to lose,” said Von Borsig, 26, of Swarthmore, Pa. “I expect a lot of good shots tomorrow. Last time I chipped and putted incredible against him. I’m looking forward to it. It’s not often you get a semifinal rematch.”
Added McDermott, 38, of Bryn Mawr, Pa., “I still have nightmares. That was one of the most amazing wins I’ve ever seen someone have. That is certainly at the top of my mind.”
The two traveled different roads to this year’s confrontation.
McDermott, who won the Association’s Middle-Amateur a few weeks back, has been the most dominant player all week. After qualifying as the No. 3 seed, none of McDermott's three matches have reached the 17th tee box. Thursday he upended James Kania, Jr. of Overbrook GC, yes, the same one, 7&6, in a Round of 16 match before stopping Tucker Koch of RiverCrest Golf Club & Preserve, 5&3, in the quarterfinals. Von Borsig defeated Michael Johnson of Talamore Country Club, 4&3, in the second round before needing 20 holes to survive a grueling match with Zachary Herr of Jericho National Golf Club.
“Today was good. I did what I needed to do,” said McDermott. “Neither of my opponents played their best golf. It was a matter of keeping pars going. I hit a lot of good iron shots. That was the story of my day.”
McDermott moved 1-up on Koch, 21, of Malvern, Pa., with a par on the third hole. He extended that advantage to 2-up with a birdie on No. 6 (par 4, 390 yards) on the strength of a sand wedge from 99 yards to three feet. The lead grew to 3-up with another birdie on the lengthy par 3, No. 8 (215 yards). McDermott hit a 5-iron to 20 feet and converted the birdie try. The match result was then decided on No. 11 (par 4, 402 yards) when he knocked a 130-yard wedge from the right rough to three feet and made the putt for birdie. A par on No. 15 (par 4, 470 yards) sealed it.
“It was early I got that lead and never relinquished it,” said McDermott. This is his fifth Amateur semifinal.
Von Borsig’s match with Herr, 18, of New Hope, Pa. was a rollercoaster ride. Herr, a Vanderbilt University bound freshman, was 1-up with three consecutive chances to end it before Von Borsig wiggled free. Herr’s putter was cold. And like 2009, Von Borsig’s short game was special. Herr three-putted No. 17 (par 3,221 yards) and lipped out a 10-footer for par on No. 18 (par 4, 434 yards) for bogeys. He then missed a four-footer for birdie on the 19th hole, No. 1 (par 4, 420 yards). On the 17th, Von Borsig saved bogey after finding the gnarly greenside fescue. He also made a fantastic up-and-down from the left front on the first extra hole after being blocked on his second shot with right side tree trouble.
On the second playoff hole (par 4, 422 yards) both players went left off the tee. Von Borsig carried the bunker but Herr found it. Herr played first and saw his second fly the green to an impossible up-and-down position to the back hole location. Von Borsig played a low, long bump and run to about 25 feet to the right side of the green. His two-putt par was enough for the win.
“I think that was a total miracle,” said Von Borsig. “I thought I lost three different times.”
Michael Kania, too, needed overtime to advance. He defeated Chris Fuga of Phoenixville Country Club in 19 holes.
Kania parred the first extra hole to win. He knocked a mid-iron from 150 yards to 30 feet above the flag and two putted. Kania, 22, of Haverford, Pa., appeared to be in control of his match on the 18th green but three putted from 15 feet above the hole for bogey.
“I’m definitely really excited,” said Kania. “I made a run a couple of years ago and it’s good to be back. I feel confident about my game.”
Hicks, 20, of Cape May Court House, N.J., won two of the final three holes to defeat Paul Tighe of Little Mill Country Club, 2-up. A William & Mary University junior, Hicks chipped in for eagle on No. 16 (par 5, 550 yards) from the first cut of rough about 30 feet from the hole to move 1-up.
“I’m fortunate to get the win today,” said Hicks. “At one point I was 2-down. Coming down the stretch it was who could make the most pars.”
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